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Unity, Diversity Day - Joint support for an inclusive workforce

by SBLT Bianca Wise for Air Force News

The ADF showed a united front in support of diversity inside its ranks on May 22 when personnel from all three services, Defence civilians and Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) cadets attended a dinner to mark International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) and to celebrate the launch of ADFA's new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) support network.

VCDF AIRMSHL Mark Binskin, CN RADM Ray Griggs and CA LTGEN David Morrison attended the dinner, with AIRDRE Adam Brown attending on behalf of CAF.

The guest speaker was former Olympic swimmer Daniel Kowalski, who shared his personal struggles and victories with the audience of LGBTI and non-LGBTI personnel at all rank levels.

Mr Kowalski said his decision to "come out'' to the media and public was the "toughest challenge he'd ever faced."

"I was scared of the stereotype and the way I'd be perceived, but at the end of the day I'm proud of who I am and what I've achieved as a gay man,'' he said.

"I look around the room tonight and see medals and ribbons pinned on uniforms. l won my Olympic swimming medals for myself and for my country,

and that is exactly the same as what everyone in the Defence Force does.

"My personal experience has shown how important it is to surround yourself with people who you know are going to assist you with your goals and dreams, and that is exactly what I can see Defence doing right here, right now, for its people.

"This is a very special occasion."

The ADF has strongly encouraged processes to break down discriminatory barriers and foster an environment of inclusion for all members. Through policy changes, welfare alliances and social groups, various avenues have been created to build a healthy and diverse workforce.

The initiatives are heavily supported across all three services by the Defence Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex lntbrmation Service, originally developed by Navy's WO Stuart O'Brien.

WO O'Brien said personnel needed to know there were support networks available.

"Sexual orientation is about being who you are and being able to get on with it, being included by those around you and breaking down the barriers of isolation that many young members perceive," he said.

The ADFA dinner received strong support from all three services, with the Senior Leadership Group's attendance showing divcrsity to be a priority being taken seriously by those in senior command.

Photo (L): Commonwealth of Australia, Mr Daniel Kowalski with DEFGLIS board members WO Stuart O'Brien, Ms Sharon Harnett and member Mr Brandon King

Photo (R): Commonwealth of Australia, Mr Daniel Kowalski with AIRMSHL Mark Binskin, RADM Ray Griggs, LTGEN David Morrison, and AIRCDRE Adam Brown

Published in Air Force News - 6 June 2013 - Page 22 - Reprinted with permission

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